Delta Governor, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, has called on the National Assembly to embody in the 1999 Constitution being amended, true federalism and independence of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The governor made the call on Monday at a nationwide sensitization on the review of the existing revenue allocation formula held at Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba.
He explained that an independent RMAFC would carry out its functions independently, including laying its proposals directly before the National Assembly for approval.
According to the governor, the current practice where recommendations of the Commission are presented to the President has led to the non-review of the revenue allocation formula since 1992 as no president demonstrated the political will to forward the amendments to the parliament.
He commended RMAFC for ongoing sensitisation of the states before a zonal exercise where recommendations from the states would be received.
“For quite some time a lot of talks have gone on in the revenue allocation and it’s very unfortunate that in this country we are still operating a revenue allocation formula that was actually reviewed in 1992.
“As we look forward to a new revenue allocation formula, we hope that you come out with something that is fair, justifiable and equitable.
“But, the challenge is that when you have done all this work, you are going to eventually, by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, lay this before the President and the President ought to lay it before the National Assembly.
“There is a challenge there and there has always been a challenge there, because what is there in our laws that will ensure that the President lays the recommendations of RMAFC before the national assembly?
“We hope that the national assembly takes a look at this amendment because RMAFC is supposed to be an independent commission, a commission on behalf of all federating units and component parts of the federation.
“They cannot tie your hands; the Constitution ought to be amended to enable Chairman of RMAFC to directly lay before the national assembly whatever review it has come up with so that nobody stands it down,’’ he said.
Okowa stated that the National Assembly must do what was right because “a nation is a nation. A federation is a federation with federating units and we must have that principle of justice and fairness.
“The independence of the RMAFC must be entrenched in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and they must ensure that this aspect of the Constitution is reviewed to ensure that RMAFC Chairman lays its report directly to the National Assembly.”
According to him, efforts of the commission can be in vain if the president fails to lay the report before the national assembly.
“No matter how much we propose and no matter how our good intentions tend to be, there is a challenge on the execution of the revenue formula as it ought to be because of limitations in the Constitution of the country and that’s an aspect we have to attend to.
“There is no doubt that for good governance in this country and for sustainable development, it’s important that the revenue allocation is revisited in such a manner that more money goes back to the sub-national units in our federation.
“At the moment, the Federal Government is taking too much of the totality of the revenue accruing to the federation to the extent that sub-national governments, including the states and the local governments, are actually short-changed and do not have enough resources
“They are the governments closest to the people who understand the needs of the people and they are the governments that can truly develop the various localities in such a manner that the impact of government would be felt in our various communities,” he added.
The governor said that the states in the country were over-burdened with lots of responsibilities, especially with a lot of security challenges across the nation.
“In recent times there have been lots of cries on restructuring and the need to devolve more powers to the states and local governments for efficiency and effectiveness of governance.
“There are lots of things being done by the Federal Government that can be better and effectively handled by the states.
“We look forward to a situation where more powers should be devolved to the sub-national governments and it is our hope and prayer that your recommendations will see the light of day and there will be a laying of recommendations of RMAFC by its chairman before the National Assembly.
“As at today, the amount the states and local governments take home from FAAC can’t actually take them home in the real sense because the values are getting so low, so minimal that all states are struggling to pay salaries.
“When you turn your states and local governments to salary-paying governments you have actually destroyed the fabric of development in the nation,” he said.
Okowa deplored the non-review of the 13 per cent derivation given to oil-producing states, adding that oil-bearing communities were faced with environmental degradation and destruction of their sources of livelihood.
He said that the creeks were the most difficult terrains to develop and urged the Sensitisation Committee to take a tour of the creeks of Niger Delta to appreciate the challenges faced by the people.
“A lot of study has been done by moving around to find out the pains of the people.
“The Federal Government should not be entitled to more than 40 per cent while the remaining 60 per cent should be shared between the sub-national governments – states and local governments.
“If we are in a federation, all federating units must be treated with respect,” he added.
The government commended RMAFC for working towards recovering funds under-paid to the oil-producing states.
Earlier, the Federal Commissioner representing Delta State in RMAFC, Mr Andrew Agbaga, had commended Governor Okowa for his giant strides in governance, which had culminated in improved standard of education, entrepreneurship programmes for youths, infrastructural development, especially in roads and the gigantic Central Secretariat Complex in the state.
He said that RMAFC was empowered by law to review from time-to-time, the revenue allocation formula, in line with changing realities.
Agbaga admitted that the revenue formula ought not to be in force for more than five years, but regretted that all previous attempts to review the formula in the past 28 years had been fruitless.
He, however, said that RMAFC considered it expedient to review the revenue allocation formula because the political structure of the country had since changed.
The commissioner listed other reasons for the proposed review as inadequate and decayed infrastructure, threats to internal security, ecological changes, including climate change and global warming.
“With the creation of six additional states in 1996, which brought the number of states to 36, with corresponding increase in local governments from 580 to 774, it has become imperative that the revenue allocation formula be reviewed.
“It is in consideration of this that the Commission is very eager to review holistically, the Revenue Allocation Formula which currently gives the Federal Government 52.6 per cent, states 26.7, per cent and local governments, 20.6 per cent.
“The Commission has called this stakeholders’ sensitisation to make their recommendations ready and presented so that the report can be ready in December for onward presentation to the President,” Agbaga stated.
Welcoming participants to the event, Commissioner for Finance, Chief Fidelis Tilije, said that Delta was a special state with more than 20 cities and big commercial activities.
He stated that Delta had large upland and riverside areas, with attendant huge costs on infrastructural development, adding that issues of housing, environment, water resources, among others, ought to be devolved to the states.
Tilije urged RMAFC to strive towards arriving at the indices that would dovetail into computation of a revenue allocation formula favourable to the sub-national governments.